Rail Map Online has been around since 2013 or so, but it only came to my attention recently. It’s an interactive map of every rail line and station that has ever existed in Great Britain and Ireland, with U.S. rail lines in the pipeline. Keep in mind that it’s a hobby project: “The U.K. map is mostly finished, although there’s always room for improvement. The U.S. map is a work in progress, and will take many years to complete.” [Tim Dunn]
Tech companies have largely ignored a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to add railway crossing data to their map apps, Politico reports. In 2016, after an accident in which a tired truck driver who used his mobile phone to navigate crashed into an Amtrak train at a level crossing, the NTSB issued a recommendation asking mapping companies to incorporate at-grade railway crossing data from the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of some 200,000 level crossings, so that their apps can warn drivers that a railway crossing is coming up.
Nearly three years later, hardly any of them have implemented the recommendation, and to date only three have responded to the NTSB recommendation: Garmin said it has railway crossing data in its latest devices, TomTom said it has had such data for a decade; Google, for its part, worried that adding such data might overcrowd the map and distract its users. Other providers, including Apple, Here, MapQuest and Microsoft, did not respond to the NTSB. Meanwhile, UPS says its proprietary navigation system includes level crossings, and while OpenStreetMap doesn’t use the FRA database, it has a level crossing tag that’s been used worldwide more than 730,000 times.
BNSF is one of the largest railways in North America. It’s the end product of a series of rail mergers, and as such it has records for all its antecedent railroads. Including, as an item posted to its website this month reveals, maps, which BNSF is now in the process of digitizing.
Some of the most historically significant maps that BNSF has are maps filed by our predecessor railroads. These maps depicted the beginning of the railroad as we know it, and were often the first official survey of some of the more remote areas of the developing West.
Many of our vital maps were found in boxes or stashed in file cabinets or storage rooms. “We went to 200-plus locations going through thousands, if not tens of thousands of boxes,” said Obermiller of the conversion. “Now we are preserving the most vital maps to ensure we are retaining our vital records and are good stewards of our heritage.”
No word in the piece as to whether those records are available to researchers or the public.
Last October I told you about a track network map for the entire French railway network, a map I just loved. That map has now been updated for 2018, which is minor news in and of itself, but (a) I love this map and (b) it’s an opportunity to point at the firm that produced the map, Latitude-Cartagene. Also to point to their other SNCF-related work, including these technical maps of the SNCF’s network and this interactive map of the network in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. All links in French. [Transit Maps]
At Retours, a digital magazine about railway history and design, Arjan den Boer looks at pictorial railway maps.
In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.
Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.
Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.
Czech Railways (České dráhy) have pulled its upcoming annual diary from circulation because it includes a sensitive map of Europe, the Lidové nivony reports (in Czech; Google Translate). The map, created by Kartografie Praha, shows Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia as disputed regions and marks the territory held by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Apparently afraid of offending ambassadors and business partners, the railways is holding some 5,000 copies of the diary in a warehouse. [Maps on the Web]
This is not the first time a Czech publisher has gotten into trouble over a contested map. (I wonder if it’s the same publisher.)
James Clark has updated his map of current and proposed railways in southeast Asia (see previous entry). The new version clearly delineates between current and proposed lines. “The black lines on the map represent railways that are currently operating, while the red lines are proposed lines. As with the subway map, proposed can mean anything from lines currently under construction, in feasibility study stage, or an on-the-record election promise from a pork-barrelling politician.”
I love track network maps. I’ve told you about Franklin Jarrier’s rail maps, Transport for London’s track network map, and Andrew Lynch’s network map of the New York subway. Now for something grander: the SNCF’s map of the entire French rail network (28 MB PDF). It shows TGV lines, freight-only lines, number of tracks, and electrification. It even numbers the lines. In print, it measures 121 × 101 cm—I’d totally put this on my wall. Que c’est magnifique! [Transit Maps]
Derek Hayes’s latest historical atlas (there have been many) came out last week from Firefly Books: The First Railroads: Atlas of Early Railroads. “In this book, Derek Hayes compiles archival maps and illustrations, many never before published, showing the locations and routes of the world’s early railways, as well as the locomotive and rail technology that was key to the development of those railroads. In addition to maps, the illustrations include photos of most of the surviving first locomotives from collections around the world and of replicas too, where they exist.” [Amazon]
I’ve seen real-time maps of Swiss trains before; this one, Trafimage, comes courtesy of the Swiss Federal Railways, and includes all kinds of information about the network: rail and bus lines, stations, fare networks, as well as real-time train data. Clicking on “Train tracker” makes the trains appear as circles moving along the rail lines; it’s apparently timetable-based rather than tracking actual trains, but remember: these are Swiss trains. [Maps Mania]
President Trump’s proposed budget would end funding for Amtrak’s long-distance passenger routes, leaving only the Northeast Corridor and state-funded lines. Maps of the lines that would be closed share the problems of Amtrak network maps in general. Take USA Today’s map from its 12 April article on the subject:
Like electoral maps that make large, less-populated areas look more important than densely populated areas, this map is somewhat deceptive: it distorts the extent of the cutbacks because it shows lines rather than trains. There are, for example, a lot more trains in the Northeast Corridor than run between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest (the daily Empire Builder). State-run services tend to have lots of lines and trains over short distances that are too small to see clearly on this map. Adding connecting services (which are usually bus routes) adds even more detail, and clutter, to a small map.
Cameron Booth, for his part, visualizes the proposed cuts by starting with his Amtrak Subway Map and greying out the lines that would be cut. This doesn’t solve the number-of-trains problem, but it does provide a clearer sense of what’s happening to the network.
Proposed budget could eliminate 15 long-distance Amtrak trains, which would leave the notionally "national" rail network looking like this: pic.twitter.com/OkBTsz8hCg
— Transit Maps (@transitmap) April 15, 2017
Previously: Cameron Booth’s Amtrak Subway Map.
I think I'm in love: a stunning isochrone map of travel times from Paris by rail in 1882 (making this a very early example of the genre). pic.twitter.com/gaSEzGCQWI
— Transit Maps (@transitmap) March 31, 2017
Cameron Booth (of Transit Maps fame) posted an 1882 isochrone map of France showing travel times from Paris by rail to Twitter and boy did it ever go viral. He’s planning on selling a print of it on his online store.
Travel blogger James Clark has created a subway-style map of southeast Asia that shows every rail line that currently exists, is under construction, or proposed.
What would Southeast Asia look like if it had a fully functioning railway network? I have thought about this many times, usually while on a bus ride from hell (Huay Xai to Luang Prabang springs to mind). […]
Over the years I’ve bookmarked news articles reporting railway lines that are under construction, or have been proposed to be built. Compiling all this data I have created a map of what Southeast Asia could look like if all of those lines were built, combined with current railways.